North Korea Threatens 'Merciless Strike' Against US

Adm. Harry Harris commander of the U.S. Pacific Command testifies at the Senate Armed Forces Committee in Washington D.C

North Korea has warned the United States will be "pouring gasoline on fire" by conducting annual war games with the South amid heightened tensions between Pyongyang and Washington.

Last month North Korea test-launched two ICBMs at highly lofted angles, and outside experts say those missiles can reach some USA parts like Alaska, Los Angeles or Chicago if fired at normal, flattened trajectories.

North Korea has long denounced the drills, calling them rehearsals for a northern invasion.

The annual Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exercise begins on Monday and involves more than 17,000 American troops along with small contingents from nations including South Korea, Australia, Britain, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, New Zealand and the Netherlands.

Earlier in the day, the allies began the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise set to run through August 31 with the participation of some 17,500 USA service members, down from 25,000 a year ago.

"In close collaboration with our allies, there are strong military consequences if the DPRK initiates hostilities", said Mattis.

Nuclear tensions are high again between North Korea and the United States - days after a much-welcomed cooling-off period - with renewed sabre-rattling calling out President Trump by name as the US and South Korea launch joint military maneuvers today.

Pyongyang also declared that its Army can target the U.S. any time and neither Guam, Hawaii nor the U.S. mainland can "dodge the merciless strike".

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Moon said North Korea's development of nuclear weapons technology was "nearing" a red line, which he described as "completing an ICBM and weaponizing it with a nuclear head".

"The Trump group's declaration of the reckless nuclear war exercises against the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea).is a reckless behavior driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war", an editorial in the official government newspaper Rodong Sinmun read.

North Korea has fired missiles and taken other steps in response to the war games in the past.

"Are we trying to publicise them and put some kind of military psychological pressure on (North Korea) or will we keep it low key and business like?"

Just last week, Pyongyang said it had finalized a plan to fire four missiles toward the USA territory of Guam. However, the US and South Korea maintain they are purely defensive. The North responded by threatening to fire missiles towards the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam.

The United States has about 28,000 troops in South Korea.

North and South Korea are still technically at war with the North after the Korean War ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.

Defense Secretary James Mattis said the exercises were planned before the latest escalation of tensions and that the focus of the drills were on integration between the two forces.

. The United States has not backed down.

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